Tenor Jay Hunter Morris really knows Siegfried. He recently covered the role with Seattle Opera in summer 2009 and Los Angeles Opera in fall and spring 2010. He will cover the role again in fall 2011 at the Metropolitan Opera. But this time, the man waiting in the wings will finally step out on the stage. This summer, Jay makes his official debut as young Siegfried with San Francisco Opera.
Okay, so I’m going to sing young Siegfried. In San Francisco. YIKES! Maybe some of you out there wanna know what that feels like? You think you want a peek behind this curtain? I’ll try and explain.
First of all, this is HARD! Don’t let anybody tell ya different. There’s an enormous bucket of notes and pitches and words and dynamics and phrases and umlauts and long vowels and double consonants and unstressed syllables and vocal stylings that must all receive their due diligence in this almost five hour long opera. Stage left, sit here, hammer a sword, spank the bear, up on the trailer, head out the window, down on your knees, kiss the girl, break the spear,
pull his ear, kick the bucket but don’t drink the poison, sing pretty but don’t push, do slay the dragon but please, watch the conductor. What’s he singing and where’s she going, don’t scream in her ear but don’t sing upstage, don’t spray ‘em with spit, be a nice colleague and how’s my German and how’s my breath, and that’s gotta be the 1,000th high note I’ve sung today…and the Tarnhelm is a what? Keeping it all straight is not easy. Not for me anyway.
So right off the bat that all adds up to one very large serving of sheer terror. Can I do this? Can I get it right? Breathe deep, nice and slow, go to your happy place. Second off… this is FUN. Tomorrow I am going to be a sixteen-year old fearless, naïve, horn tootin’, super-strong, fireproof hero that understands the birds and the beasts. And I will sing some of the most gorgeous and challenging music ever written! I am surrounded by brilliant musicians who are lending their years of experience and support and gentle reminders and pages of notes and suggestions, all in the spirit of molding me into my finest Siegfried. That feels really good. [Right: Jay Hunter Morris as Captain James Nolan in the World Premiere of Doctor Atomic at San Francisco Opera in 2005]
Now, I promise you, it is a very long way from my home in Paris, Texas, to this stage. That is more often than not, my greatest source of fear—country boy that I am—taking on Siegfried. But it’s time to put that nonsense behind me and enjoy every minute. I’m
gonna do my homework, and get my sleep and eat my fruits and veggies and I’m going to be prepared to do my very best every time the music starts. Each day I’m getting a little stronger, a little more confident and finding my groove, so I slap those doubting demons off my shoulder and count my blessings and say, Yes I can! I can do this. [Left: Jay Hunter Morris with son Cooper]
I’ll let ya know.